Author’s note: At the end of the day, we want this blog post to offer a little bit of reprieve. And, if we’re being honest, we hope it’ll make you laugh a little too. Because we could all use a little laughter in our lives. Stay tuned for a comprehensive download on everything that entails creating a BCP, as well as access to the business continuity plan template.
Two words: dumpster fire.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Merriam-Webster defines it as “an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence.” As a business owner, it’s safe to say that you’d probably like to avoid them at all costs. But as John Lennon so famously iterated, “life happens when you’re busy making plans.”
What’s the purpose of a business continuity plan?
In the event of a crisis (big or small), you want to ensure business continuity, as well as an ability to secure the safety of your employees in some way, shape or form. Meaning, you want to be able to maintain or work toward business recovery and functionality. And a business continuity plan helps you:
- Maintain business functionalities.
- Manage crisis-related hurdles.
- Resume business functionalities.
- Recover from the crisis accordingly.
What’s the difference between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan?
You’ve probably seen the terms “business continuity plan” and “disaster recovery” used in the same sentence — likely because a disaster recovery plan functions as a subset of a business continuity plan.
Simply put, a business continuity plan works:
- To ensure business as usual — i.e., maximum functionality despite circumstances.
- To gain validation and assurance from and for stakeholders of your business.
Whereas a disaster recovery plan refers to:
- A pre-existing emergency procedure or process that a business implements during a time of crisis to protect any IT infrastructure.
- A crisis can be:
- Ecological – Also known as environmental disasters, ecological disasters usually occur because of humans. Examples would be the long-term side effects of a nuclear event or an oil spill.
- Natural — Disastrous natural events include floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and more.
- Human-made — Similar to ecological disasters, human-made disasters also happen because of human actions as well as a lack of action.
So, all that said, how do you write a business continuity plan? Let’s dive in.
How to write a business continuity plan
There are five core components you need to define and implement before going hog-wild on a business continuity plan template. The more time and effort you put into creating a thorough and well-thought business continuity plan, the better off you’ll be — no matter if you’re leveraging a small business continuity plan template or a BCP template for a large-scale organization.
More specifically you need to:
- Create a business continuity team
- Define objectives
- Conduct a business impact analysis
- Write and define your response plan
- Set a testing schedule
Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll expand on what steps you need to take and things you need to create an effective business continuity plan.
Create a business continuity team
To get started, you’ll want to assemble a business continuity team. These folks will function as your business continuity management group and handle the ideation, development and implementation of your business continuity plan. Whomever you nominate should have a sharp attention to detail and be both highly organized and dependable in times of stress.
- Executive manager — Responsibilities include: writing the business continuity process and serves as the liaison between your business continuity team and executive management or board members.
- Program coordinator — Responsibilities include: functioning as team lead for business continuity team, handling coordination in regards to plan development, budget and recovery procedures.
- Information officer — Responsibilities include: Sharing data information related to the business continuity plan.
There are two factors you want to consider as you evaluate and define your objectives.
- Your end goal — What is the end goal you’re looking to achieve by creating this plan? Are you looking to resume business as usual? Are you looking to recover a certain amount of financial standing? By defining your end goal, you’ll be able to narrow down the scope of your business continuity plan to ensure it feels both tangible and realistic.
- Your budget — What kind of budget can you expect to allocate for? As in, how much can you allocate toward resources to execute and achieve your business continuity plan?
Once you’ve defined your objectives, you’ll have a clearer perspective and understanding of how to go about putting together the business continuity plan.
Conduct a business impact analysis
To get a firm grasp on your budget, you’ll want to conduct a business impact analysis. A business impact analysis provides insight into costs, benefits and prioritization.
According to Ready.Gov, a Department of Homeland Security website, a business impact analysis (also known as a BIA) “predicts the consequences of disruption of a business function and process and gathers information needed to develop recovery strategies.”
As in, what happens when one functionality breaks down? What else does this loss of functionality impact? For example, say you’re a food distribution business and one of your trucks breaks down — how does this affect your delivery and operations?
Write and define your response plan
Great news! You and your business continuity team are on track to completing a concise yet simple business continuity plan template.
Now, you’ll need to brainstorm, write and define your response plan. Keep in mind, this BCP will be your first draft, so not everything will be set in stone right off the bat.
Within your response plan, you’ll need to include:
- Financial limitations or budget
- Expected timeline
- Team roles and responsibilities
- Additional stakeholders
[Business impact analysis]
- Your BIA
[Strategies and requirements]
- Your proactive approaches to prevent crises
- Your reactive strategies to ensure immediate response to crises
- Your reactive strategies to ensure long-term recovery
[Training and testing]
- Your training schedule for employees
- Your testing schedule
If you’re so inclined, you can easily leverage one of our existing business continuity templates to your advantage. All you need to do is plop any existing information into the corresponding fields, and get to testing, which leads to our next and last step….
Set a testing schedule
As tempting as it might be to call it in when you’ve wrapped up your business continuity plan, you should err on the side of caution and give it the old test-a-roonie. A test ultimately helps you identify potential hurdles, soft spots or holes in your plan, so when push comes to shove and a crisis does arise, you’re not left having to deal with a colander for a lifeboat during your time of need.
To start testing, communicate with and train each team member about the steps they’ll need to take when implementing the business continuity plan. Then, you’ll conduct a test trial of your BCP — be sure to make a note of any holes or gaps in the plan or execution of the plan itself as you’ll need to come back to these and fix them.
You’ll want to consistently and periodically test your BCP for any hiccups. Plus, your company and organization are bound to change, and you need your BCP to be agile and grow with your company as it grows, too.
Creating a BCP for recovery
Ultimately, the last thing you want to be dealing with when you’re navigating a crisis is to be dealing with, well, the fallout of an unplanned emergency. And not only that, you want your employees to remain as safe and secure as possible. After all, they are the driving force behind your business productivity and functionality, which is why you must ensure that your business continuity plan provides the best chance of recovery possible.